The Despagne family has been making wine in Saint-Emilion for seven generations. François Despagne took the reins in 1996, and his passion and intelligence have made his family property – a grand cru since the original classification in 1955 – one very much to follow.
The estate is near Saint-Emilion’s border with Pomerol. There are 30 hectares of vines on a mix of clay and sandstone soils, but François painstakingly analysed the vineyards and has identified 53 individual plots. He now adapts his viticulture to suit the needs of each parcel. Vines range in age from 40 to 95 years. No herbicides are used, and cultivation is essentially organic.
Grapes are hand picked and vinified in 27 separate stainless-steel and cement tanks. The blend is 75% merlot, 24% cabernet franc and 1% cabernet sauvignon, and the wine is aged for 18 months in oak, around 35 to 50% of which is new.
The aim here is to make a wine with freshness, elegance and richness that ages well for between six and 20 years. Older vintages such as 1943 and 1961 show the vineyards’ considerable quality and, following something of a dip in the 1990s, the excellent 2001 vintage signalled a return to form. The property has continued well since then.